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Q&A for Florida’s Students, Parents and Educators

Updated: July 21 (Certification info); March 31, 2020 (Working from Home, IEP and Certification questions)

Below are answers to some common questions educators and parents have about Florida’s students, schools and educators during the coronavirus pandemic. Don’t see your question? Just ask.

Educators may also be interested in the pages with tips about working from home and resources for distance learning.

Additional and expanded answers are covered in the Florida Department of Education’s March 18 Q&A (PDF, 884 K). Additional FLDOE memos include:

  • Florida DOE March 31 memo, closing schools through May 1.
  • Florida DOE March 24 memo (PDF, 755 K) to Superintendents setting goal of implementing distance learning by March 30.
  • Florida DOE March 18 Q&A (PDF, 884 K), additional guidance and clarification regarding the Department’s guidance to school districts related to COVID-19 closures
  • Florida DOE March 17 Guidance, closing all schools through April 15, 2020)

General Info (including testing, promotion and retention)

What does it mean to be closed until April 15th? When will it be known if we are going to be closed longer?  

This decision is made by the state every two weeks as they learn more from the government and CDC. School districts are to work on distance and digital learning for grades 6-12 to keep students on track for course credit and graduation.

How does cancellation of state assessments impact students?

  • All accountability testing for high school seniors, expected to graduate this spring, is waived and they will graduate, but they will still have to finish the semester and ultimately be graded.
  • For non-seniors, waiving requirements for any course requiring an EOC. For instance, if they’re in algebra they’re waiving the algebra EOC. They won’t need EOC components for their grade or their credit. However, those who haven’t passed the grade 10 ELA must pass it at a future administration, and they still must meet the mathematics requirement before their graduation, if they are not currently a senior.
  • For grade 3, promotion grade 3 ELA/FSA data won’t be available, so promotion decisions will be made in consolation with parents/teacher based on a student’s classroom performance.

Will parents have ability to request retention?

Yes, if a parent wants to do that and they think it’s best for the student they can do so. Parents should have a conversation with their child’s teacher to discuss this decision.

How do minutes for digital/distance learning add up for credit for students? 

Right now, FLDOE anticipates the year ending on time as scheduled. However, the Districts have been given flexibility to extend their calendars. This is a working condition that you must impact bargain. The FLDOE guidance is “[we are] trying to give kids as much education as possible with a default of compassion and grace.”

Are we going to waive instructional time? 

The Governor has given authority to waive instructional hours, but as it stands now, FLDOE believes we can get to the end of the school year on time. School is in session, teachers will be teaching, grades will be given just in distance learning capacity.

How will Advanced Placement exams be affected?

Please see AP Central’s March 20 AP Updates for Schools Impacted by Coronavirus.

How will International Baccalaureate (IB) exams be affected?

On March 23 the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) announced that the May 2020 testing will not be held. Please read their update for complete details.

Working from Home

NEW / Can I use my personal computer to conduct distance learning classes while working at home?

The best practice is to use the district computer. If you must use your personal computer then there are some things you should do to ensure that you aren’t keeping public records on your personal computer thus making it subject to a public records search.

  1. Save any work to the District drive or cloud.
  2. If you communicate to parents through the RE-MIND app (many districts do), you don’t have to worry about this because those records should already be in the RE-MIND cloud.
  3. Do NOT conduct district business via text.
  4. If you receive professional communication in your personal avenues, forward/copy them to district avenues
  5. If you have no choice but to use your personal computer for district work, save it in a designated folder or cloud service such as Dropbox.
  6. Ensure that no other family member can access these files.

NEW / My district requires us to make calls to students. Should I use my personal phone? Can I get reimbursed?

This needs to be addressed through the union MOUs. That is where reimbursement of equipment should be discussed. First, you should make use of digital services through computer to make calls such as Google Voice or other service. This preserves your personal phone number and keeps your work separate from your personal phone. Some classroom applications have the ability to make calls directly through the program. Work with your district technology department on what apps and programs are supported through their network.

Students with IEPs

How are we addressing students with IEPs?
To support students with identified IEP-related services who may have a disruption in services, school districts in coordination with a student’s parents and IEP team are given flexibility to work for the remainder of the school year to provide alternative services or delay services until later in the summer months. You can also expand your hospital/homebound programs to accommodate students with IEPs. 

NEW / What does it mean for adults in their last year of school under their IEPs? Can they go until 23?

In general, each district’s plan determines the time of exit at 21. Some allow until the students 22 birthday. Others, the year that the student turns 22 etc. There is no state funding for districts to serve students after age 22 in the k-12 FEFP. IDEA does allow for funds to be used for such purpose if the district chose to do so. This would be an individual district decision and would require an amendment to their IDEA grant.

NEW / I am concerned about transition IEPs for my students as they exit high school. What plans are being made to help these students continue their learning?

IEP teams will continue transition planning with students and families through virtual mechanisms. It may take a bit of creativity, but local district teams, have been working non-stop to plan. Many of the details at the district level may not be finalized.

Evaluation and School Grades 

What happens to my evaluation if we can’t finish the school year? 

Each bargaining unit will need to address how your evaluations are affected. You may already have language in the CBA or a past practice that addresses this. 

With cancellations in accountability what will my district grade be?

There won’t be a grade, everything remains as whatever was achieved in the prior year. 

My school is in Turnaround status. What happens to that status? 

K-12 school grades will not be calculated for 2019-20 and schools in turnaround may continue their current status for the 2020-21 school year to avoid disruption to school leadership and operations.

How will school recognition money be determined next year? 

There is an allocation in the budget for school recognition funds, however, without new school grades it is undetermined how this money would be distributed.  More guidance will come when we have the answer. 

Certification

What is happening with certification exams? Updated 7/21

On May 19th, the Department of Education notified teachers via email that the fee waiver voucher limit had been reached, and the fee waiver voucher code will expire at Midnight on May, 19. 

Effective April 1, 2020 through May 19, 2020, Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE) candidates may register for FTCE exams free of charge. This offer applies to all examinations provided for in State Board Rule 6A–4.0021, Florida Administrative Code. Vouchers will remain valid for up to one year from the date of registration. However, test site availability through April 16, 2020 is currently limited due to COVID-19-related closures in Florida and nationally due to federal and local safety guidelines.

As testing sites open, Florida examinees will be scheduled for testing on a first-come, first-served basis. Beginning April 1, 2020, you may visit http://www.fl.nesinc.com/ to register for free examinations through midnight, May 19, 2020. On the Enter Payment and Billing screen, instead of entering your credit or debit card information, you will click ADD VOUCHER or PROMO CODE, enter the voucher FTCESpring2020, and click the Apply button.  If you do not enter the voucher, the system will require payment.  

Please note that any FTCE registrations made prior to April 1, 2020 are subject to current fees. However, examinees who have paid these fees may cancel registrations up to 24 hours prior to their scheduled test time and receive a full refund. 

NEW / Will fees for certification renewal be waived?

No, only testing fees are waived.

NEW /What about teachers who will be required to have added reading, ESE or ELL certifications or endorsements to their certificate by this fall?

Teachers who are currently certified but out of field in any area except Reading and ESOL will be allowed to continue in the out-of-field assignment  for the 2020-21 school year if the district makes that request of the DOE.

For Reading, authorization for an out-of-field teacher in Reading is extended to December 31, 2020.

ESOL teachers as well as all other teachers who are out-of-field must obtain certification coverage in the out-of-field subject or successfully demonstrate progress toward obtaining the required certification coverage during the 2020-2021 school year in order to continue working in the out-of-field coverage area.

How will college students who are interns and need to finish for their graduation requirements continue their internships and conduct classes so they can be certificated? 

FLDOE does not have a specific hour requirement. FLDOE has basically said that universities should work in partnership with school districts to ensure students are successful in their completion of internships.

Funding

Any reduction to district allocation?

No, every District will receive 100% of their full allocation for the 19-20 school year. 

Any flexibility in categorical funds?

K-12 districts are allowed to redirect their allocations and reading scholarship accounts to help low income students to establish distance learning. 

How will school recognition money be determined next year?

There is an allocation in the budget for school recognition funds, however, without new school grades it is undetermined how this money would be distributed.  More guidance will come when we have the answer. 

Bargaining And Impact Bargaining 

During this emergency, is all bargaining guidance in effect?

The rules that establish your rights to bargain are in Chapter 447. This is still in effect – Chapter 447 has not been suspended.  You always have the right to directly bargain wages, hours of work and conditions of employment.   

How do I know when I need to impact bargain?

Everything about the shuttering of schools and working from home has an impact on these bargainable areas, wages, hours of work, and conditions of employment. Notify your District counterpart of the issues, the impacts of those issues, and the areas of the contract that are affected by closing campuses to students in a Demand to Bargain letter 

How do I get started notifying the District that we need to bargain over these issues?

You should be working with your District counterpart and documenting your work into a signed Memoranda of Understanding.

Submit a question

Do you have a question that doesn’t appear on our list? Send it to us! If it’s a universal question that can benefit others, we will share it out. Many questions will depend on what is being done in your district, so please also contact your local union with individual questions.

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